April 3, 2013

Science, Catholicism, and the Papacy in the New Millennium
Peter Hess: Experiencing three popes inside of 10 years prompts reflection on continuity and change in one of the world’s longest surviving institutions. From my perspective at the National Center for Science Education, it’s interesting to consider papal involvement in science, especially with regard to contemporary issues of central importance, such as an evolutionary perspective on the universe. (The Huffington Post)

The Doomsday Argument
Adam Frank: What if there was a mathematical way of addressing doomsday that had nothing to do with politics or policies or perspective? More importantly: What if that approach already existed and it told us we were already close to the end? Consider this your introduction to the Doomsday Argument. The rather ominous term “Doomsday Argument” refers to a line of reasoning that seeks to answer a simple question: Where is our place in the total number of human beings that will ever be born? (13.7: Cosmos and Culture, NPR)

Can Meditation Make You More Compassionate?
Researchers found that only 15 percent of people who did not undergo meditation training helped a person with crutches. But up to half of those who went through the training helped the person. “The truly surprising aspect of this finding is that meditation made people willing to act virtuous—to help another who was suffering—even in the face of a norm not to do so,” study researcher David DeSteno, a psychological scientist at Northeastern University, said in a statement. (The Huffington Post)

Latin American Ant Colonies of Unrelated Families
The ant families specialized in particular tasks, such as tending the young and patrolling outside the nest, a team reports online in Biology Letters. But the collective spirit goes only so far: The insects tended to hang out with other family members, and each bore a chemical signature of its family membership. The researchers say their findings suggest that divvying up the work can help unrelated individuals live in harmony. (ScienceShot, Science)

Against the Flow
A potential portal to other universes seems to have closed. The sharpest map yet made of light from the infant universe shows no evidence of “dark flow”—a stream of galaxy clusters rushing in the same direction that hinted at the existence of a multiverse. That is the conclusion of 175 scientists working with data from the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft. But champions of dark flow are not ready to give up yet, including one Planck scientist who says his team’s analysis is flawed. (Maggie McKee, New Scientist)

Category: Field Notes

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